Built in the late 1870s, Santa Fe's original transcontinental route featured the treacherous Raton Pass. Located on the Colorado-New Mexico border, Raton Pass was known as the "highest point on the Santa Fe". The route ascended to over 7,500' in elevation.
The route, which was once the heart of the mighty Santa Fe Railroad, now only sees two trains per day. In the early 1900s, the Santa Fe built the "Belen Cutoff", which allowed trains to travel via the Texas Panhandle, Oklahoma and Kansas. The Belen Cutoff did not have the significant 3.5% grades like Raton Pass. Freight traffic slowly dwindled until the mid 2000s when the BNSF seized regular freight operations on the Raton Pass Route. Today, BNSF still owns the Raton Subdivision but Amtrak's Southwest Chief is the only regularly scheduled train on this route.
In this shot, the eastbound Chief slithers through the tight curves along Raton Pass during the late evening hours of March 7th, 2020.